During a recent citizens' dialogue on demographic challenges and the Conference on the Future of Europe, organized on 13 February as part of a study visit at the University of Valladolid, Francisco Igea (Renew Europe CoR) gave examples of how political systems give greater priority to more populous territories, which causes areas with fewer inhabitants to have fewer representatives and leads to less influence in designing policies.
Elaborating on the relationship between Brexit and the issue of urban-rural disconnect, Igea stated
"The link between demography and democracy is clear to us representing not only citizens but also our territories. Regions that are empty are regions that lose representative weight; becoming disconnected from the decision-making and from the European project. Institutions such as the European Committee of the Regions are crucial to raise the voice of these regions and avoid political problems such as those that have arisen, for example in relation to the Brexit voting map in rural areas."
Furthermore, he connected the process of political disconnect and disaffection with the emergence of political projects, manifested in the form of local parties that question the future of the EU. Therefore, it is imperative that the EU takes into account regions with serious demographic challenges in future policymaking, he said, emphasising "if we do not draw the conclusion that citizens are not only those who live in cities, we will have no future in this European Union".
Igea regretted that regions suffering from a gradual loss of population have experienced financial problems while working to uphold the provision of social services, such as education and health. Castilla y León is a good example of a region, with its two million inhabitants across 95,000 square kilometers, that has as a result of this context experienced equality problems, as almost 70 percent of their budget goes to providing social services.
To this end, European Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography Suica recognized demography as an issue of interest for all regions. “We will need help from all our local and regional representatives to tackle demographic challenges but also to make a conference on the future of the EU a success!”